29 Leadership Secrets From Jack Welch

by The Story Teller May 22, 2008
Book Author: 
29 Leadership Secrets From Jack Welch

Nick McCormick's post on 'Unmanagement' got me thinking that there is a popular view of Jack Welch as a domineering, strong-willed leader who imposed himself on GE and shaped it in his often ruthless image, with a 'shape up or ship out' culture. "Well, up to a point, Lord Copper", as the lead character in the book Scoop always says to his boss when he's afraid to contradict him. There are different incarnations of Welch, depending on which period of his 20 year career at the top of GE you look at. For much of the last fifteen, he championed 'unmanagement' of a sort, spending his time trying to get his managers off their employees' backs so that they could perform.

This book is an abridged version of Robert Slaters previous Welch book, Get Better or Get Beaten . This abridged version is far more useful: tight, sharp, full of transferable learning points and only 134 pages long. I turned down the corner of almost every page - a bad habit of mine. Here's an excerpt so you can get a sense of the book:

Excerpt: Manage less

“Welch made it very clear that he wanted his mangers to manage less. He wanted them to do less monitoring and less supervision and to give their employees more latitude. Conversely, he wanted far more decisions made at the lower levels of the company.  

Obviously, he wasn’t suggesting that managers should knock off at noon every day and head for the golf course. Far from it. But, he didn’t want his managers interfering with their employees at every turn. Instead, he wanted them to concentrate on creating a vision for their employees and making sure that the vision was always on the mark and was being acted upon.

This is counterintuitive right? Aren’t managers supposed to manage? If they manage less, won’t the overall performance of the business suffer? Who will make sure employees are working as hard as they can? Who will monitor inventory levels? Who will worry about maintaining the quality of the product?

In addition, managers want to manage. They want to keep their fingers on the pulse of the business and keep close tabs on their employees.

Welch responded with one word: Relax.

Stop getting in people’s way. Cut them some slack. Stop looking over their shoulders. Stop bogging them down in bureaucracy. Let them perform.

Behind this prescription lies a key idea: Your employees deserve respect. You hired the best people and trained them well, right?

So treat them with respect. Show them you understand that they are doing something important for the company. Build their confidence – in you, in the company and in themselves.

And then get the hell out of their way.

One welcome by-product of this approach is an increased management focus on the big issues. For Welch ‘managing less’ at GE meant that his leaders had more time to think big thoughts and be more creative. They gained time to look beyond their own fiefdoms and think about how they might help other GE businesses.

As the years wore on, Welch felt that his senior managers were getting better and better at helping each other out. Had these leaders spent large amounts of time firing off memos to their subordinates, checking up on them or worrying about fine grain issues, they wouldn’t have had the time to devote to the bigger-picture opportunities."

29 Leadership Secrets From Jack Welch

by Robert Slater

available from Amazon and all good book stores

Not to be confused with: The Welch Way: 24 Lessons From The World's Greatest CEO, by Jeffrey Krames, which is not as good as this one (if you have to choose between the two).

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